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DHS Continues to Sound the Alarm on Domestic Terrorism in New Bulletin

November 12, 2021

This week, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released a new intelligence bulletin, covered by NBC News, that details the scope and prevalence of domestic terrorism and foreign terrorism in the country. The bulletin notes that domestic terrorists are using false narratives “to promote violence online, [and call] for attacks on members of Congress and public health and school officials…” The bulletin also notes that “the remainder of 2021 and into 2022, racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists and anti-government/anti-authority violent extremists will continue to pose a threat to the United States.”

A report released by the Center for Strategic and International Studies concluded that “[w]hite supremacists, extremist militia supporters, and other like-minded individuals were involved in two-thirds of the [terrorist] attacks and plots in 2020.” In the piece, NBC News notes [emphasis added]:

“‘Extremists have called for attacks on elected officials, political representatives, government facilities, law enforcement, religious communities, commercial facilities and perceived ideological opponents.’

John Cohen, DHS’ head of counterterrorism and intelligence, told a House committee last week that ‘the period of threat that we are in today is one of the most complex, volatile and dynamic that I have experienced in my career.’”

Our country’s gun laws provide right-wing extremists easy access to firearms. The fatal consequence of white supremacy mixed with easy access to firearms resulted in the mass shootings in Pittsburgh, PA, in October 2018 and in El Paso, TX, in August 2019. In the wake of both shootings, media outlets, advocacy organizations, and community leaders noted that the language the shooters used to justify their attacks echoed the language used by former President Donald Trump and other extremist lawmakers in Congress — which has been peddled by gun lobby groups like the NRA for decades. 

A 2020 Everytown report details the gun lobby’s decades-long amplification of far-right rhetoric and advocacy for laws that enable right-wing extremists in the United States to arm themselves. The report, which can be found in full here, also examines the toxic mix of conspiracy theories, guns, and far-right extremism in America.

Last year, Politico released a detailed report on how the Trump administration ignored DHS warnings of a rise in white supremacist domestic terrorism, as well as how its inaction led to officials leaving the department out of frustration. The Biden administration has released a national strategy on combatting domestic terrorism, which includes:

  • Understanding the scope of domestic terrorism, 
  • Disrupt domestic terrorism activity,
  • Disrupting recruitment to domestic terrorist organizations, and
  • Confronting long term factors that contribute to domestic terrorism, including “stemming the flow of firearms to individuals intending to commit acts of domestic terrorism.”

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